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Disaster Preparation Series 03: Avalanche
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Disaster Preparation Series 03: Avalanche

I live in the Western States where high mountains look down over our shoulders and say, “Watch out!” In the winters when snow packs can be very heavy, there is always danger of avalanche. We get warnings all the time that a certain area is ready to send thousands of tons of rock and snow and ice down on us.

We have lots of folks looking for adventure out here in the west. They disregard safety warnings when skiing or snow boarding or snowmobiling. Some die. Some because nobody could get to them or perhaps never knew they were missing. It is best to ski and snow board and drive your snowmobile where people will be watching out for you and can find you.

It doesn’t take much to start an avalanche. One layer of snow is resting on another level and can’t wait to take a fast ride down the mountainside. A large slide like we use to see when we lived in Colorado, could block the road for long distances and the road crews could take days to clear the rode, find the cars, rescue the passengers, and get things running again.

In 1954, in Bions, Austria, an avalanche killed over 100 people only to be followed by a second avalanche that killed about 100 more including rescuers, over 200 dead. During the Great War, WWI in 1916, over 10,000 soldiers from Austria and Italy died in avalanches over a few days period.

When I lived in Utah, the state would fire howitzers to cause avalanches to come down under controlled conditions. I’m sure the impact of the shell was not always required to bring down the mountain terror. The sound alone could have done the trick.

If you are engaging in activities where avalanche is probable you should be wearing a device that signals your location. Also, the avalanche air bag back pack can keep you at the surface of the slide and is brightly colored so it can be seen by rescuers.

Transceivers which help rescuers find avalanche victims are common and have saved lives. Also there is a device developed by Black Diamond Equipment in Utah that prevents the victim from re-breathing carbon dioxide.

A shovel may help a victim dig out if he or she is not buried too deep. Being upside down can start a victim digging in the wrong direction. If you have a flashlight or can see, you may be able to spit or drop something to see which way is down. You will want to go in the opposite direction.

We have people get lost here in Idaho all the time in the back country. You should be equipped for a possible emergency situation. Folks are advised to have blankets, warm coats and food and water while driving under winter conditions.

Fly Old Glory!


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